having or showing a merry, lively mood:gay spirits; gay music.
bright or showy:gay colors; gay ornaments.
given to or abounding in social or other pleasures:a gay social season.
licentious; dissipated; wanton:The baron is a gay old rogue with an eye for the ladies.
of, indicating, or supporting homosexual interests or issues:a gay organization.
a homosexual person, esp. a male.
in a gay manner.
Gmc; compare Old High German gāhi fast, sudden
1275–1325; 1950–55 for def. 5; Middle English gai
1.See corresponding entry in Unabridged gleeful, jovial, glad, joyous, happy, cheerful, sprightly, blithe, airy, light-hearted; vivacious, frolicsome, sportive, hilarious. Gay,jolly,joyful,merry describe a happy or light-hearted mood. Gay suggests a lightness of heart or liveliness of mood that is openly manifested:when hearts were young and gay.Jolly indicates a good-humored, natural, expansive gaiety of mood or disposition:a jolly crowd at a party.Joyful suggests gladness, happiness, rejoicing:joyful over the good news.Merry is often interchangeable with gay:a merry disposition; a merry party; it suggests, even more than the latter, convivial animated enjoyment.
2.See corresponding entry in Unabridged brilliant.
1.See corresponding entry in Unabridged unhappy, mournful.
In addition to its original and continuing senses of "merry, lively'' and "bright or showy,'' gay has had various senses dealing with sexual conduct since the 17th century. A gay woman was a prostitute, a gay man a womanizer, a gay house a brothel. This sexual world included homosexuals too, and gay as an adjective meaning "homosexual'' goes back at least to the early 1900s. After World War II, as social attitudes toward sexuality began to change, gay was applied openly by homosexuals to themselves, first as an adjective and later as a noun. Today, the noun often designates only a male homosexual:gays and lesbians.The word has ceased to be slang and is not used disparagingly. Homosexual as a noun is sometimes used only in reference to a male.
BiographicalJohn, 1685–1732, English poet and dramatist.